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Rong Chen and the Evolution of the Internet: From ARPANET to Web3 — Part 2
In Part 1, we explored the pivotal contributions of Rong Chen to the internet’s development, starting with his innovative work in 1987 at NCSA on data rendering algorithms. This era was essential for the evolution of the internet, marked by the introduction of the first TCP/IP protocols for IBM PCs and the genesis of the World Wide Web in 1989. Rong’s involvement was key in transitioning the internet into a user-friendly platform. During his time at Microsoft (1992-2000), he further advanced OS development, focusing on multimedia systems and secure computing, a testament to his forward-thinking technological approach.
As the internet evolved from Web 1.0, a basic platform for reading content, to Web 2.0, an interactive space fraught with challenges like data centralisation and privacy issues, Rong’s insights and experiences became increasingly meaningful. This evolution paved the way for Web 3.0, centering on user security, data ownership, and decentralisation—simplifying and enhancing the groundwork laid by Web 2.0. This slow yet significant approach in computer science signified a change towards a more secure, user-centric internet. These foundational principles inspired Rong Chen to establish Elastos, a pioneering Web3 platform, which will be further explored in Part 2.
“The network is the computer.” Rong Chen
Core Technological Principles
Post his time at Microsoft in 2000, Rong relocated to China to spearhead the development of a new operating system, Hexin, amidst tough challenges. His innovation with a C++ virtual machine established a secure, sandboxed environment, laying the foundational architecture of Elastos. The incorporation of blockchain technology in 2018 was a pivotal moment, endowing the platform with decentralised security, immutable records, and smart contracts—cornerstones of a trust-based, secure internet. This integration, along with Rong’s expertise in operating systems and computer science, simplified internet architecture, moving from a centralized to a decentralized network OS. This shift redistributes power from central entities to individual users and communities. Here are the core components:
- Sandboxing: Elastos revolutionises security through sandboxing, isolating applications to prevent malware spread and safeguard user data. This contrasts starkly with the current internet model, where apps often have extensive system access.
- Peer-to-Peer Communication: Elastos transforms internet communication with a peer-to-peer model, facilitating direct data exchange between devices sans central servers, thus enhancing privacy, security, and efficiency.
- Decentralised and Trust-Based Interactions: Blockchain technology in Elastos underpins a secure, decentralised system with an immutable ledger, pivotal for safeguarding transactions and preventing data breaches and misuse. Elastos combines a main chain for essential transactions which is merged mined with Bitcoin for security with adaptable side chains for fast tasks like smart contracts and identity services.
Elastos as a World Computer
Elastos can be conceptualised as a “World Computer”, a decentralised network mirroring a singular, global computer. This network enables secure data storage, processing, and communication among its users. Its comprehensive framework integrates various components, each akin to parts of a traditional computer. Here’s a breakdown of Elastos’ components and their parallels in a traditional computer system:
- Elastos Runtime (The Virtual Machine): Mirroring a computer’s operating system, the Elastos Runtime serves as the primary interface for running applications. It hosts decentralised applications (DApps), akin to an OS within an OS.
- Elastos Hive (Storage Solution): Hive operates as a decentralised storage system, similar to a computer’s hard drive. It facilitates secure and decentralised data storage and retrieval.
- Elastos Carrier (Network Layer): Comparable to an internet connection, the Carrier enables peer-to-peer communication between nodes in the Elastos network, circumventing the need for centralised servers.
- Elastos Blockchain (Trust and Security Layer): This backbone of the Elastos ecosystem is akin to a computer’s security and trust protocols. It’s merged-mined with Bitcoin and provides decentralised trust, records transactions, and manages digital identities.
- Elastos Sidechains (Scalability Solution): These function like auxiliary processing units, providing additional capabilities and scalability without burdening the main blockchain.
- ELA Tokens (Transaction and Governance Mechanism): Serving as the currency within Elastos, these tokens are akin to resources or credits in a computer system, managing processes and prioritising tasks.
- Elastos SDK (Software Development Kit): Similar to a computer’s development tools, this kit equips developers to create DApps for the Elastos ecosystem.
By integrating these components, Elastos forms a comprehensive “world computer”, redefining application operation, data storage, and transaction processes in a digital environment. It emphasises decentralisation, security, and user control. By decentralising the network, Elastos aims to tackle key issues plaguing the current internet, such as data monopolisation, security vulnerabilities, and lack of user autonomy.
E Last OS – The Last OS
“Every Web3 app has its dedicated compute space, provided by the hosting device’s OS or the browser’s WebAssembly. Additionally, each Web3 app is equipped with its embedded OS, with dedicated binary executable code loader and interrupt handlers, that can thwart reverse-engineering attempts on decryption keys. This design ensures that the loader can scrutinise the hash value (SHA256) of each executable file against the dependency list in the caller file’s resource section. In essence, every Web3 app has its own built-in trustworthy computing mechanism, eliminating the need to trust external entities, a crucial aspect for Web3 security. Given the diversity of mechanisms employed by different apps, it becomes very challenging for an open-source Web3 Network OS to compromise the security of a Web3 app.” Rong Chen
This vision simplifies Web3 app security: each decentralised app (DApp) functions in its own secure runtime environment with an embedded OS. This design eliminates the need for complex external security measures, focusing on internal protocols like specialised code loaders and SHA256 hash checks. This approach directly enhances trust in the Web3 space, embodying Elastos SmartWeb’s commitment to a secure, independent, and simplified Web3 application security framework.
In this new paradigm, the internet is no longer a series of centralised servers owned by a few corporations. Instead, it functions as a global, cooperative network where each node contributes to the overall system’s stability and security, and binary code moves peer to peer, validating blockchain rights before running the DApp. This approach fundamentally alters how data is stored, shared, and managed, empowering users with greater control over their digital identities and interactions, addressing Web 2.0’s centralisation issues such as single points of failure, corporate control over data, and lack of transparency.
Elastos SmartWeb (Interconnectivity Layer)
In Elastos’ vision for Web3, Rong Chen birthed the term ‘SmartWeb’, a category which transforms the internet into a user-driven, interactive ecosystem. The SmartWeb is analogous to a computer’s web browser or internet suite. It enables interconnected services and applications on the Elastos network, allowing for a seamless and integrated user experience. It merges decentralised technology and security, transitioning from centralised control to a more democratic space where users own and control their data.
“On the current internet everything you share is a copy and doesn’t have much value. The internet of value is scarce. Today we trade offline goods, but can you trade online virtual digital assets and build a virtual economy which protects users data? To send a digital asset you have to send code not, for instance, a file that can be played by a media player. You have to send binary code, which runs like a program and validates itself and checks the blockchain, do you still own it? When you’re sharing code we call it a Smartweb.” Rong Chen
Components and Functionality of SmartWeb
- Decentralised Structure: SmartWeb utilises Elastos’ decentralised structure, operating across a network of distributed nodes rather than central servers, enhancing security and preventing singular entity control.
- Security Through Sandboxing and Blockchain: Security in SmartWeb is multifaceted. It employs sandboxing technology to isolate applications, preventing malicious software from affecting the system or accessing user data without permission. The integration of blockchain technology provides an immutable ledger for transactions, fostering trust and transparency.
- User Empowerment and Control: SmartWeb is designed to return control to users. Through decentralised applications (DApps) and digital identities, users gain autonomy over their digital interactions, managing their data, and controlling how it’s shared.
- Peer-to-Peer Interactions: A vital component of SmartWeb is its peer-to-peer communication model. Unlike the traditional internet, where data often goes through centralised servers, SmartWeb enables direct communication and data exchange between users’ devices and personal nodes, boosting privacy and efficiency.
- Integrated Digital Economy: SmartWeb isn’t just about secure communication; it also fosters a decentralised digital economy. Blockchain and smart contracts facilitate secure, transparent financial transactions without traditional intermediaries.
In the last five years, Elastos has been initiating a paradigm shift in the internet’s evolution, building on ARPANET’s foundational principles. Rong Chen’s vision compels corporations and individuals to adapt, as companies must forgo some control for a decentralised model, disrupting conventional business structures. For individuals, it heralds a new era of digital interaction and ownership. The benefits are transformative: Elastos enhances security, privacy, and user-centricity, supporting true digital ownership. It catalyses individual monetisation and redefines digital private property, enabling users to participate actively and equitably in the digital economy. Users can monetise their content and services directly, establishing ownership rights over their digital assets, a previously challenging feat. Elastos isn’t merely a technological leap; it’s a call to revolutionise our digital world, paving the way for a secure, equitable, and user-controlled digital landscape.